Russia withdrew a host of key defense advisors to Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime in Venezuela over lack of payment, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
Up to 1,000 employees from the Russian state defense contractor Rostec have been stationed in Venezuela in recent years to help the Maduro regime shore up its military control over the country. Yet according to Russian defense sources who spoke with the Journal‘s Thomas Grove, the number of staff has recently been cut to just a few dozen as a result of the fact that the regime can no longer afford to pay Rostec for its services.
The gradual pullout of Russian advisors will be seen as a victory for the Trump administration, which has successfully squeezed the Maduro regime’s depleted finances by imposing a range of economic sanctions against Venezuelan industries, the most important of them being the state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA).
The news also represents a major setback for the Maduro regime, which have long relied on the steadfast support of Russia for remaining in power. However, it is currently unclear whether the departure of Rostec advisors is part of a wider pullback in Russian involvement. Reports last month indicated that Moscow had expanded its military presence in the South American country with the arrival of over 100 troops.
As recently noted by Breitbart contributor Rafael Valera, Russian advisers have proved a “formidable resource in how to strategically take out the opposition,” teaching them strategies in how to crush popular uprising through the use of brute force.
Russian efforts to support the Maduro regime have exacerbated tensions with Washington. The Trump administration affirmed its commitment to supporting President Juan Guaidó, who the U.S. and most other western democracies recognize as the country’s rightful president, in the hope that he will help instigate a transition to democracy in the crisis-stricken country.
Moscow has repeatedly attacked Washington over its efforts to remove Maduro from power, decrying them as a “shameless, open attack on Venezuelan sovereignty” while pledging to help the regime overcome U.S. sanctions. In March, President Donald Trump urged Vladimir Putin to “get out” of the country, although the Kremlin has since warned that troops will stay in the country for as “long as needed.”
Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that the two countries’ positions on the Venezuelan crisis were “incompatible” but that Moscow remained “ready to talk.”
“I don’t see the way the positions can be combined – our position, which is based on the UN Charter and principles and norms of international law and the position of the U.S., which appoints from Washington ‘acting presidents’ in another country, demands that legitimate authorities capitulate and threatens to use force simultaneously with oppressive sanctions in order to change the regime,” said Lavrov. “The positions are incompatible, but we are ready to talk.”